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Researcher Receives $3.9 Million Grant to Study Cannabis Terpenes

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Terpenes found in cannabis hold vast potential in the future of medicine, with a growing body of evidence. Ziva Cooper, who serves as research director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, was awarded a $3.9 million grant from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the National Institutes of Health to study cannabis terpenes and determine if they have the ability to lower the amount of opioid medication needed.

Cooper is an associate professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in Los Angeles, California. Cooper and her team of investigators will examine two terpenes, myrcene and ß-caryophyllene. The team will determine if they are effective in treating pain on their own, or by enhancing the properties of THC.

“Chronic pain is a significant public health burden and there are few effective treatments that lack the adverse effects that limit use,” said Cooper in a news release. “Specific chemicals in the cannabis plant taken alone or together may be effective options with minimal side effects—placebo-controlled studies to explore this urgent area of research are desperately needed.”

Just months ago, Cooper received a similar grant. In the fall of 2019, Cooper and her team received a $3.5 million grant for a study on how cannabis and cannabinoids affect men and women differently—especially for the treatment of pain. Cooper is recognized as the first research director of the Cannabis Research Initiative, beginning in January of 2019. The initiative was founded in 2017 under the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.

There are estimated to be over 200 terpenes found in cannabis, according to a 2011 study, with several displaying the potential for possible medical benefits. Beyond cannabis, myrcene is found in mangoes, hops, bay laurel leaves and thyme. ß-caryophyllene is also found in black pepper, cloves, hops and rosemary.

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